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Pitkin County Open Space and Trails set to receive $10 million loan from Great Outdoors Colorado

The Snowmass Falls Ranch property is 650 acres bordered on three sides by the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Pitkin County OST used a lot of the funds it had in reserve to purchase the property.
Courtesy Hall & Hall
The Snowmass Falls Ranch property is 650 acres bordered on three sides by the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Pitkin County OST used a lot of the funds it had in reserve to purchase the property.

Pitkin County is set to receive a $10 million interest-free loan from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) for its Open Space and Trails Department.

Earlier this year, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails made its most expensive purchase to date. The Snowmass Fall Ranch property is about 650 acres and surrounded on three sides by the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The county paid $34 million for the land, which it hopes to sell to the White River National Forest to expand the Wilderness area.

Officials say the land has both historic and environmental values. The property has a history as a ranch dating back to the early 20th century, and is home to valuable wildlife habitat, as well as two miles of Snowmass Creek frontage.

Dale Will, OST’s acquisition director, said the purchase was a long-term goal of the county’s, and well worth the investment, however the large purchase has hindered them from pursuing other projects.

“We are, at the moment, pretty flat-footed, as regards our financial capacity for doing conservation projects this year,” he told Pitkin County commissioners during their Wednesday meeting.

GOCO’s money comes from Colorado Lottery net proceeds, and is used to fund a variety of conservation projects around the state.

“The purpose of this loan is to breathe more capacity back into the program, so that if we line up a deal that you all want to do to conserve some property, we’ll have the wherewithal to do it,” he said.

Will said the county’s long-standing relationship with GOCO is what led to the loan’s favorable terms.

During the Wednesday meeting, Pitkin County commissioners gave their initial approval to the loan. There will be the opportunity for public comment on July 24, after which, the commissioners will give their final approval to the deal.

The county’s second biggest OST purchase was in 2010, when it acquired 845 acres in the heart of Sky Mountain Park for $17 million.

Caroline Llanes is a general assignment reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering everything from local governments to public lands. Her work has been featured on NPR. Previously, she was an associate producer for WBUR’s Morning Edition in Boston.
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